Sunday, October 3, 2010

Food Bank of Delaware

Delaware may be a small state, but food insecurity looms large. Last year, about 242,000 people, 44% of them children, received food from the Food Bank of Delaware. That’s well over ¼ of the state’s population.

It takes energy and imagination to meet that level of need, and we found it when we visited the Food Bank of Delaware and met President and CEO Patricia Beebe and her energetic staff of 37.  They run many programs and have even more new program ideas in the works. While not all ideas succeed, Pat and her staff seem to keep working at them until any impediments are overcome and the programs can go forward.

For example, Pat described an idea to put a food closet (what Delawareans call their food pantries) into each of the 18 State Service Centers, the offices where people go when they need help and financial benefits such as WIC, Medicaid, and mental health services. Why make people go to yet another location when they need food?  Pat persisted for years until a new Secretary of Health and Human Services was interested in the idea. Pat agreed to raise the money, buy any needed equipment, and train the volunteers to do it all. What could they say? Now food closets are in operation at all but 3 of the State Service Centers. Since opening in April, they’ve distributed about $60,000 worth of food.  (read more)

In addition to the two programs we’ve chosen to highlight in later postings (The Market and Nutrition Education), here’s a sampling of other programs we saw at the Food Bank of Delaware:
  • Distributing food to partner agencies. This is, of course, the main operational program of the food bank. Here, volunteers make it all happen. We met Volunteer Coordinator Jason Begany, who said that over 10,000 volunteers a year provide the equivalent labor of about 19 full-time staff members. He’s a master at motivating the volunteers, saying “This is your food bank” and incorporating their good ideas into making operations run more smoothly.

  • Children's Nutrition Programs. Up to 1,000 sandwiches a day are prepared by busy volunteers in the kitchen each morning and distributed to after-school programs and summer feeding programs.
  • The Culinary School. This program consists of 10 weeks of in-house training in cooking skills and life skills, plus a 2-week paid internship. We were privileged to attend the graduation of the 25th class of 8, and to interview Executive Chef Tim Hunter. Tim came to the Food Bank of Delaware 1½ years ago to teach in the Culinary School; he described the amazing transformation that the culinary school has had on the lives of many of its graduates.
  • Mobile food pantries.  A Food Bank truck delivers boxes of food to underserved areas.  Some mobile food pantry times and locations are scheduled ahead of time.  Others occur when there are perishable foods such as dairy products, fruits and vegetables, that need to quickly get to those who can use them; in these cases the truck might just arrive in a neighborhood and the food given to whoever comes.
And then, of course, there’s fund raising. We happened to be in Delaware at the time of this year’s “Blue Jean Ball” fund raiser, which had a 1960’s theme of “Love, Peace, End Hunger.” We helped decorate the warehouse on Friday and were graciously invited to join the fun on Saturday – and FUN it was. We sure hope lots of money was raised to support the vital programs of the Food Bank of Delaware.

1 comment:

  1. I love the fact they have a mobile kitchen and culinary school. Kuddos to Delaware!